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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Another day, another immigration protest at the state Capitol



Continuing a weeklong effort to protest SB 2040 and HB 7089, immigration advocates crowded the state Capitol rotunda Wednesday.

This time, they were mostly undocumented college students from Miami-Dade who support the Dream Act, a federal effort to allow students and members of the military who were brought illegally into the country as children to become citizens.

The students, some of them clad in caps and gowns, tried to meet with Senate President Mike Haridopolos by staging a sit-in outside his office. Security guards informed them they could not sit on the floor, and so the students waited sitting in chairs, with open textbooks on their laps.

"We're going to sti here and study as we wait...we have finals," said Felipe Matos, a 25-year-old business student at St. Thomas University who originally came to the U.S. from Brazil when he was 14.

Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican who met with another group of immigration advocates on Tuesday, did not meet with the students or sign a pledge they had brought asking him to oppose the controversial bills. Later, Haridopolos said the Senate version would be heard in a committee on Thursday.

At one point in the afternoon, three students interrupted the Senate floor debate, standing in the Senate gallery and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. The sergeant's office asked them to leave.

Meanwhile, the Florida Immigrant Coalition issued a statement against Geoff Ross, a retired Navy veteran from Navarre who said he filed a federal complaint against Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, for not reporting the presence of undocumented immigrants in the Capitol.

"This is a prime example of the xenophobia and racial profiling that is being promoted with tax payer money," said Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. "The investigation is ridiculous and waste of tax payer money. If these laws pass we can expect more misdirected criminalization and repression."

In Miami, Mayor Tomás Regalado also issued a statement, decrying the legislative proposals.

"[O]ur residents and businesses fear that harsh immigration bills will create division between the local community, and harm the image of Miami as a welcoming city for tourists," he said. "We acknowledge that our country is still waiting for a debate on immigration and that the federal government has not taken full responsibility for this issue, but this is not the moment or the best way to act on the question of immigration."

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 7:46pm]


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